Gen 7 could expand OEM involvement

CONCORD, N.C. – Word that NASCAR officials will begin taking wins away should a team fail post-race inspection wasn’t the only news that came out of Monday’s media gathering at the sanctioning body’s Research and Development Center.

Chief among the other topics – the new Generation 7 NASCAR model, scheduled to debut in 2021, has helped pique the interest of outside auto makers.

“It’s ongoing,” Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president and chief racing development officer for NASCAR, said Monday about talks with other auto makers not currently involved.

“I mean, you never know until obviously something happens, but I think we’ve stated our goal is to get to five (auto manufactures).

“We continue to have dialog. I have a call (Tuesday) with one, was at the 24 Hours (in Daytona) having discussions … I think the potential … design and where we may go in the future from an engine standpoint has certainly opened up those conversations. No guarantees but it’s something we continue to pursue.”

The 2019 rule package includes a new areo platform on the outside and engine package (tapered spacer) inside the cars.

“I can tell you that the work that’s already been done on this project has already opened doors for a number of manufacturers to have conversations that we haven’t been able to have in the past,” he said.

“There is still work to do … but I think it’s really opened the door up to have a new NASCAR in terms of what you may see on the track, what you may see under the hood in the future as well.”

The rollout of the Gen 7 car is scheduled for the 2021 Daytona 500, while a new engine package would follow in 2022, “to give everyone enough lead time,” O’Donnell said.

Three auto manufacturers currently compete in NASCAR – Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota.

Joey Logano gave Ford its first driver’s championship since 2004 when he won last year’s title and Ford won the manufacturer’s championship as well.

Toyota joined NASCAR’s Cup Series in 2007 and won back-to-back manufacturer titles in 2016-17. Driver championships have gone to Toyota drivers Kyle Busch in 2015 and Martin Truex Jr. in 2017.

Chevrolet enjoyed a run of 13 consecutive manufacturer titles from 2003-15.

Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson was the last Chevrolet driver to win the championship, earning his record-tying seventh title in 2016.

The most recent departure of a manufacturer came at the end of 2012 when Dodge ended its NASCAR involvement. Ironically, Dodge driver Brad Keselowski captured the series’ championship that season.

• Ben Kennedy, the former racer and great grandson of NASCAR founder William H.G. France, has been named Managing Director, Racing Operations and International Development.

Previously manager of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Kennedy will also “play a really pivotal role in our international development,” O’Donnell said, which includes racing interests in Canada, Mexico, Europe and China.

• Kennedy was on hand to unveil the Triple Truck Challenge for the Truck Series, a three-race program that will award race winners a $50,000 bonus for one win, $150,000 for winning two of the three races and a staggering $500,000 should a drive win all three.

The Challenge will be in play for races at Texas Motor Speedway (June 7), Iowa Speedway (June 15) and Gateway Motorsports Park (June 22). Drivers earning points in either the Cup or Xfinity Series are not allowed to compete in the Triple Challenge events.

• The opening round of qualifying at all tracks other than superspeedways and road courses has been shortened from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, according to Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR. Second and third rounds will remain 10 minutes and five minutes, respectively.

Miller said the break in between rounds has also been shortened from seven minutes to five minutes. The change is in effect for all three national series.

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